Matthew Prior

(1664—1721) poet and diplomat

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joined with Charles Montagu (later earl of Halifax) in The Hind and the Panther Transvers'd to the Story of the Country Mouse and the City Mouse (1687, see Town Mouse and Country Mouse), a satire on Dryden's The Hind and the Panther. He was appointed secretary to the ambassador at The Hague and employed in the negotiations for the treaty of Ryswick. He joined the Tories and in 1711 was sent to Paris as a secret agent at the time of the peace negotiations, the subsequent treaty of Utrecht (1713) being popularly known as ‘Matt's Peace’. He was recalled on Queen Anne's death and imprisoned for over a year. A folio edition of his poems was brought out in 1718 after his release. Prior is best remembered for his brilliant occasional verses, epigrams, and familiar pieces (‘My noble, lovely, little Peggy’ and ‘Jinny and Just’, for example, in which he combines lightness of touch with mock seriousness), but also wrote longer works in various styles. Carmen Seculare (1700) is an ode celebrating the arrival of William III; ‘Alma; or the Progress of the Mind’ (1718) is a Hudibrastic dialogue ridiculing various systems of philosophy. ‘Hans Carvel’ (1701) and ‘The Ladle’ (1718) are narratives ending with coarse jests, whereas ‘Henry and Emma’ (1709) is a sentimental burlesque of an old ballad ‘The Nut‐Brown Maid’.

Subjects: Literature.

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